Category: Homecoming Glossary

Homecoming coverLetter YThe Central calendar is based on the solstices and equinoxes, with the northward equinox marking the start of the year, a planetary holiday called Yearday. The Central year is actually slightly more than 364 Central days, so Yearday is always defined by the northward equinox at the longitude of Confederation headquarters, and if necessary an intercalary day is inserted on the day after Yearday. This occurs roughly every 9 years.

The year is divided into twelve months of 30 days each, with holidays (which are considered not to belong to any month) between them. Yearday is the most important of these, and the only one firmly tied to the astronomical calendar. Northday is approximately on the northern solstice and Southday near the southern solstice; Feastday is near the southward equinox.

The school calendar starts with the first day of the fifth month, a month after Northday. There are two month-long vacations, starting with Northday and Southday.

Both Feastday and Yearday are times for parties and celebrations, but most students do not have enough time off school to travel home at these times. Only those whose parents are able to teleport them home normally get anything but the celebrations planned at school.

I’m doing my A to Z blogs from my books, both characters and background information. For characters I’ll introduce them quickly, say what point of time they’re talking from since their situations change drastically through the books, and let them talk. The format of background information will vary according to what I’m talking about. Bold type indicates that more information has been or will be available in another A to Z post. All of these blogs will be scheduled to go live just after midnight Alaska time.

Banner AZ logo

Homecoming coverCoryn K’Derik Tarlian is Derik’s son and head boy of the 12th year at Tyndall, a boarding school where most of the students are R’il’noids with esper abilities. Cory is a secondary character in Homecoming, is mentioned in Tourist Trap, and because he is non-aging, will still be around in the upcoming trilogy. Here he is speaking from the first section of Homecoming.

(Incidentally, the R’ and l’ are palatalized, as in Russian. An alternate spelling of R’il’noid would be Ryilynoid.)

I’m not sure why Kim asked me to tutor this Roi. Oh, the older students are always expected to tutor the younger ones, but a paralyzed youngster who everyone says is my father’s catamite? I know he’s dad’s slave. I saw him once on a visit, though he wasn’t paralyzed then. Beat me riding, in fact. But what is he doing here? Dad’s a practical joker, sure, but he doesn’t play that kind of jokes.

Anyway I took him on, though I expect it’ll be a real challenge even if Kim’s right in thinking he’s pretty bright. He’s been a slave; he can’t have learned anything. But Xazhar K’Zhaim, the 10th year leader, is bound and determined the kid’s going to fail. Xazhar’s a bully. If I have anything to say about it, he’s not going to get his way this time!

I’m doing my A to Z blogs from my books, both characters and background information. For characters I’ll introduce them quickly, say what point of time they’re talking from since their situations change drastically through the books, and let them talk. Background information will vary according to what I’m talking about. All of these blogs will be scheduled to go live just after midnight Alaska time.

Banner AZ logo

Homecoming coverThe Bounceabout is the crew’s nickname for exploration ship XP-13. Why? Well, to explain that I need to explain a bit about how faster-than-light travel works in my universe.

I know, it’s not really possible to go faster than the speed of light. But how do you have an interstellar plot if you cannot assume simultaneity, which is ruled out by relativity? So I am making the following assumptions:

1. Electromagnetic radiation does indeed travel at the speed of light.

2. Esper talents (telepathy, telekinesis, levitation, teleportation) are instantaneous, as are their mechanical versions such as sub-light communications and jump gates. However, they are subject to distance limitations.

3. Interstellar travel is accomplished via “jump points” (you can call them wormholes if you prefer) which can be flagged with sub-light beacons. Transit between two jump-points is reasonably smooth if the exact positions of both are known.

4. Unflagged jump points can be detected via electromagnetic radiation, but of course if a jump-point is five light-years away, what you will detect is where the jump-point was five years ago. Transition to an unflagged jump point (location not precise)  is (a) rough and (b) tends to do strange things to artificial gravity fields and force fields. As a result of this, exploratory jumps are taken in free fall with all people on board physically webbed into place – and they need to be!

The practical result is that while travel within the known parts of the Confederation is fast and reliable, the expansion of the Confederation, depending on exploration, is slow and the Confederation itself has a very strange shape.

In Homecoming, even Lai quickly comes to call the XP-13 the Bounceabout!

I’m doing my A to Z blogs from my books, both characters and background information. For characters I’ll introduce them quickly, say what point of time they’re talking from since their situations change drastically through the books, and let them talk. Background information will vary according to what I’m talking about. All of these blogs will be scheduled to go live just after midnight Alaska time.

Banner AZ logo

Homecoming coverAmber is a character in all three of my published books: Homecoming, Tourist Trap and Horse Power. She is blond, blue-eyed, and pretty, but has a tendency to put on weight. This is how she might have told her story early in Homecoming, when she was still a pre-teen.

Amber is what my parents named me, but of course now I have to answer to whatever my owner calls me. I’m not sure why, because we didn’t even have slavery at home. Home. Where is my home? I don’t know. I can’t even remember the name of my planet.

I do know that I was in school when they came, because I remember how pleased I was at figuring out what multiplication meant. After that things got blurry and when they unblurred again, I was being sold at a slave auction. I was sold again several times, and I think put on another spaceship. This time my new owner asked a lot of questions, and when I said I’d had dancing lessons he sold me again, to a trainer of dancers.

That wasn’t too bad except for the slave collar, but I’d learned by then to do what I was told—fast. Those things hurt and I wasn’t going to give the trainer any excuse to use it! But that was where I met the others.

Timi first. He was a captive, like me, maybe a year older. He was determined not to give in to the collar, and he got into an awfully lot of trouble. He was a terrific dancer when he was cooperating, though. Then a little later Snowy and Flame showed up. They’re about the same age as Timi.

Mostly the slave-breds didn’t want much to do with the captives, and us captives felt the same way about them. Snowy and Flame were both slave-bred, but I noticed right away how they danced as a team. They were good! I think they were there for polishing, but Snowy was watching the rest of us, too. One day he came over and asked me if I’d like to try dancing with them. “I’ve got an idea for a dance for four people,” he said, “and I think it’d be a good one for you. If we can find another boy it might even get us a better owner.”

“Timi’s very good if you can get him to work with you,” I said, and he nodded.

“I’ll see if I can talk him around.”

Well, he did, and after a month of practicing when the trainer was busy elsewhere, we performed our dance when he was watching. Snowy was really good at making up dances, and I think the trainer was impressed. Anyway he sold us as a group, which was what Snowy was after. Our new owner wasn’t exactly what Snowy was looking for, though, and he really watched the guests we were made to dance for. I think he engineered the next sale, without either of the owners realizing it.

So the four of us came to belong to Derik. He’s nice enough, though he has an absolutely rotten overseer. I’m really worried right now, though. Snowy’s sick, and Derik took him away and told us not to worry. Timi’s kind of taken over the leadership, but he can’t make dances like Snowy could. How much longer are we going to be able to stay together? And where’s Snowy?

I’m doing my A to Z blogs from my books, both characters and background information. For characters I’ll introduce them quickly, say what point of time they’re talking from since their situations change drastically through the books, and let them talk. Background information will vary according to what I’m talking about. All of these blogs will be scheduled to go live just after midnight Alaska time. Today I’m adding an extra A: Thanks to Arlee Bird, who started this whole A to Z thing.

Banner AZ logo

With 550 posts as of today, I’ve started to have problems remembering what I’ve already put on here. This is particularly a problem with posting existing content such as poems, short pieces from the Summer Arts Festival, or science explanations originally written for the Alaska Science Forum. I can’t remember which books or DVDs I’ve posted reviews on. It also is starting to be a problem when I want to link to a previous post and can’t remember when it was put up or what the title was. And there are posts on this blog that have permanent information, like the series on planet building and the one on horse color genetics, or the book and DVD reviews. I want to make it easier for my readers as well as myself to find things.

I made a start some time ago by adding an index page, which can be accessed from the menu at the top of any page. Right now, the only links are to index pages on my author site. This takes you out of the site and sometimes back in, which is rather clumsy. The index list is also incomplete.

I’m going to start posting an occasional entry which is strictly an index of past posts on a particular topic. These posts will be linked from the index page, and will link forward to the individual blog posts. As it takes a while to find all the posts that belong together, this will be a slow process—probably extending over the next few months. The first in this series, on DVD reviews, is already queued for January 3. Others will follow, most on Thursdays.

I probably won’t be indexing every post. Some, like those early posts which were simply glossary entries for my books, are on the author site and really belong there. Others, like the regular Monday updates on North Pole weather starting in November 2010, can be found easily enough just by using the calendar on the site. But I hope that by the time I have finished this, older posts of interest will be easier to find.

If Saturday blogs are to be about my science fiction civilization, the Jarnian Confederation, I thought I’d start with Jarn, the R’il’nian who in my fiction is a remote ancestor of every Human alive today. Timing? Sometime early in the Last Interglacial, some hundred and twenty-five thousand years ago.

Selections from the Journal of Jarn

Day 1:

 I am alive, which still astonishes me.  I do not know enough about this planet yet to have more than a rough idea of its year length, but no doubt I will find out soon enough.  If I ever get back to where designing another starship is possible, I will design it with a few more of the standard safety features.  Like the block against exiting a jump point too close to a gravity well.

If by any chance I do not get back home, and this record does, perhaps I should introduce myself.  I am Jarn, a R’il’nian and a designer of starships.  Not, I regret to say, as good a designer as I thought, or my third ship would be around me instead of lying in pieces on the bottom of one of this planet’s oceans.  Indeed, it all happened so fast I am still somewhat confused, but I will try to state briefly what happened.

I was aiming for the vicinity of a G-type sun, and I exited the jump-point too close to the third planet’s atmosphere, and heading into it.  All I could do was maneuver into a braking orbit and try to kill enough energy that a water landing wouldn’t vaporize the ship.  No, I could not have teleported to safety.  I never was any good at interstellar teleports, or at going someplace I hadn’t been before. That’s why I went into starship design.

Anyway, not only does the planet have lots of water, it also has land areas with large stretches of chlorophyll green.  A huge one stretches almost halfway around the planet in the northern hemisphere, with an extension into the southern hemisphere at its trailing end, and a pair on the other side of the planet together extend almost from pole to pole.  It looked as if there was ice at both poles, though it could have been clouds, and the readouts as we got into the atmosphere indicated one part oxygen to four of nitrogen.  All this strongly suggested life, and it would be unethical in the extreme to let the ship destroy any more of that life than I could help.

(To be continued next week.)

Sunset Dec 21 at Fairbanks, latitude 64 degrees 50 minutes. Photo taken about 2:40 pm, looking a little west of south.

Happy Southday! (Or, if you don’t follow time as measured on the planet Central, Happy Winter Solstice.) The days in the northern hemisphere are getting longer again!

Solstice has nothing to do with distance from the sun. In fact, we are rapidly approaching our closest approach to the sun, around January 3. But because the earth’s axis is tilted relative to its orbit around the sun, there are times (the solstices) when one pole or the other comes as close as it ever gets to pointing directly at the sun, while the other is as close as it can get to pointing away. That happened on Dec 21 this year with the north pole pointing as far as it could get away from the sun.

On the winter solstice, the sun never rises north of the Arctic circle, while it never sets south of the Antarctic circle. Closer to the equator it rises and sets, but the northern hemisphere days are at their shortest for the year, and the sun at noon is at its lowest in the sky. The low sun and short days combine to minimize the solar heating of the ground and water. The opposite is true in the southern hemisphere, where it is the first day of summer, and both day length and solar elevation are at their greatest for the year.

Our Earth’s axis of rotation is 23.5 degrees from axis of rotation of its orbit around the sun. What would happen if that angle were 0?

I actually invented such a planet, called Eversummer, for my second science fiction novel, Tourist Trap. It wasn’t exactly paradise!

The planet’s name, Marna thought, must have been picked out by a publicity agent.  Everspring would have been more accurate, or Everfall, or perhaps Constancy.  Maybe even Boredom.

The planet, with its rotational axis almost perpendicular to its orbital plane, had no seasons.  The poles were bitterly cold, glaciated wastelands where the sun forever rolled around the horizon.  The equatorial belt was an unchanging steam bath, the permanent home of daily tropical thunderstorms, varied by hurricanes along its poleward borders.  The desert belts, inevitable result of the conflict between the planet’s rotation and its unequal heating by its sun, were broad and sharply defined, with no transition zones where the rains came seasonally.  The temperate zones, between desert and polar ice, were swept year round by equinoctial storms, varied only by occasional droughts.  No monsoons, no seasonal blanket of snow to protect the dormant land, no regular alternation of wet and dry seasons.

Would you like to live on such a planet?

FIRSTDAY: #scifi First day of a fiveday. It is considered a holiday at Tyndall, but different religions and occupations take various days of each fiveday as being “special” in some way.

FOLLOW-ME: #scifi A person teleporting himself normally brings along anything he is touching (such as clothing) unless deliberately leaving it behind. (A person could, for instance, teleport into or out of an isolation suit.) For massive objects, a “follow-me” circuit will link the object to a small receiver carried by the teleporter, as well as providing the extra energy needed for the teleport of the object.

SCREAMER: #scifi An electronic gadget that produces a burst of telepathic noise. They can be set for various intensities, and a good telepath can to a certain extent work through one, but not easily or without special training.